“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church and non-profit fundraising by Charles LaFond, a consultant, spiritual companion and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making and now, Note to Self.
It is August. The last of the vacations are underway complete with murder mysteries, cookouts and coconut suntan oils. Clergy and some on-top-of-it wardens are vaguely aware that it will soon be time to launch the Annual Pledge Campaign in many of our churches. If you have been reading these articles in this Fearless Fundraising series, you will have prepared your campaign last spring in Lent and Easter – the theme, event design of kick-off and closure dinner feast with 8 weeks between, the materials, case brochure, pledge card design and printing, committee structure – you have done all that in March, April and May. But in four weeks, you will be kicking off the campaign and you are wondering, between these last sunlit days of summer what is next. Well, I’m here to tell you. Major gifts.
“What?!” you say, nearly spilling that Margarita and waking grandma from her gin-infused nap? “But I though you always said that major gifts is a PROGRAM and NOT a campaign!” you say. Well. That is true. Major gifts is a program which runs all year long and the campaign is only 8 weeks. But, there is a small loophole.
There is always a mini-major gifts campaign in the beginning of the annual pledge campaign. It is not the regular major gifts of meanings-making conversations, but it is a mini-version of that. In other words, one of the overlapping circles between the major donor’s meaning making and the church’s mission is the annual budget which, if the church has integrity, is doing work in which people would want to invest.
So before you launch your campaign in four weeks and send out the pledge cards, you want to visit with each of your major donors personally in these next four weeks as they return from vacation and tell them how grateful you are for the pledge they have made this year and what big plans you have for next year. Explain to them that the work your church plans to do next year, like this year, is work Jesus would recognize – things about which He spoke often. And having thanked them, you will want to ask, personally, for their pledge next year, increasing the request commensurate with your assumption about their capacity and their involvement … their meaning making and its overlap with your mission. If you have a parish or non-profit of 200 families, you are probably only talking about 20 visits. Get them right, and the foundation of the campaign is set. You want to have raised 50% of your campaign goal with these conversations BEFORE you launch your campaign.
The gospels tell us that the women who followed Jesus paid the bills. Such remains the case. But I expect that Jesus asked them, having included them in top decision-making first. If you do too, you will find your own mission funded. Just do what Jesus did and you will be fine.
Visit the Fearless Fundraising site for more on major gifts in the Annual Giving Campaign.